By Joan Thayer

Women's Sailing ConferenceMore than 100 women sailors, from amateur day sailors to experienced offshore cruisers, arrived at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, MA on Saturday, June 2, 2018 to share their expertise and learn new skills at the 17th NWSA (National Women’s Sailing Association) Women’s Sailing Conference. Participants, who came from 12 states, chose from 20 different classroom and on-water workshops.

The Flares and Fire Extinguishers Demo was another popular workshop. © Pam Foley

We had two Sonars loaned by the Corinthian Yacht Club and a Colgate 26 provided by Black Rock Sailing School, one of two Platinum Sponsors of the Conference. BoatUS is the other Platinum Sponsor. The winds were up and down and gave us cause as to whether we would need to send out the CYC launch to retrieve the sailors as the wind died down.

However, the boats carry paddles and the women put them to good use. No one wanted to be late for lunch or miss that last minute push at the silent auction table! Our reefing session was held on a Sabre 42. The Dinghy Captain workshop was a very strong favorite, and we had three inflatable dinghies at our disposal. We introduced Dinghy Captain last year, and this year it had a waiting list. When you are cruising, you need to get from a mooring to shore. More independence!

On land, the workshops ran the gamut from Sailing 101 and How to Toss a Line to Plotting Your Course and How to Prepare for Offshore and Extended Cruising, as well as lighting off flares on the beach and learning to splice a line.  For the more advanced sailors, there were Marine Electrical Wiring and Advanced Docking workshops.

Sheila McCurdyOur keynote speaker, Sheila McCurdy, was also awarded the BoatUS/NWSA Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award. Sheila has a tremendous amount of sailing experience at all levels and she is also very involved with promoting sailing for all as well as promoting opportunities for women. Sheila spent the entire day at the conference. Her presentation was “Sailing is a Metaphor for Everything.”

Sheila McCurdy of Middletown, RI was honored with the BoatUS/National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) 2018 Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award © Phil Sherman

We had over 40 raffle items that we gave out in the morning welcome and at the end of the evening. We also had 23 silent auction items, many hotly contested. All proceeds from the raffle ticket sales and silent auction benefit the Women’s Sailing Foundation’s AdventureSail program for underserved girls and educational workshops for adult women. The buzz of excitement continued throughout the day. And now it is over and we all go back to our respective locations armed with renewed confidence, skills and new sailing connections. The 18th NWSA Women’s Sailing Conference will be hosted by Corinthian YC on June 1, 2019. To learn more, please visit

Joan Thayer organized and co-chaired the first Women’s Sailing Conference in 2001.